Aug 26, 2020

Spicy Basil Fried Rice with Chicken

Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 10 mins
This quick and easy recipe turns the Thai dish grapow gai, spicy basil chicken into fried rice with a simple sweet and spicy sauce.

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This recipe turns the popular Thai dish of grapow gai (also known as pad kra gao), spicy basil chicken into fried rice with a sweet and spicy easy sauce made from just 3 ingredients. Oyster sauce, soy sauce and fish sauce are blended together and paired with basil leaves both in the rice and crispy leaves garnished on top. The chicken in this recipe can easily be swapped out for meat like thinly sliced beef or shrimp instead. This take on Thai fried rice with chicken and basil comes together quickly and easily for a weeknight dinner using simple ingredients.

Spicy Basil Fried Rice with Chicken

 

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What’s in this basil fried rice recipe?

Vegetable oil

Vegetable oil is a neutral oil meaning it doesn’t have it’s own flavor. As a result it doesn’t overpower the other flavors in this dish. It also has a higher smoking point than say olive oil. This makes it a better choice to use to stir fry the rice.

Shallots

Shallots have a mild, slightly sweet flavor. If needed yellow or red onion can be swapped in. The general rule of thumb is 3 medium shallots equal 1 medium onion.

Bell pepper

Bell peppers are sweet with mild flavor. They don’t have any heat but add a sweet flavor, especially when sautéed. The colors of bell pepper differ based on maturity – it comes down to the time of harvesting. Red bell peppers are fully ripe. They can be substituted with another color of bell pepper in this recipe as the difference is subtle.

Garlic

As the garlic is sautéed the flavor mellows so it’s not very pungent but adds a base flavor that complements the sautéed shallot and sweet sauce.

Thai Birdseye chili

Bird’s eye chilies or Thai chilies are small, pointy chili peppers that pack a punch. They add an intense heat with fruity flavor to dishes rating between 50,000 and 100,000 Scoville units. They can sometimes be difficult to find so I usually buy a large bag of them at them at my local Asian market. I store the chilies in the freezer in a resealable plastic bag. It’s actually even easier to cut them when they are frozen.

Chicken

I use chicken thighs in this recipe because they are both a cheaper cut as well as an extremely flavorful. If swapping in chicken breasts I would recommend slicing them thinner so they cook more quickly and don’t dry out.

Rice

Most Thai recipes use jasmine rice but this recipe calls for basic long-grain white rice (probably the most common variety of rice). Any medium to long grain rice variety can easily be substituted. I generally use whatever type of rice I happen to have leftover.

Oyster sauce

Oyster sauce is made from a combination of caramelized oyster juices, salt and sugar, sometimes soy sauce and often a thickening agent like cornstarch. It’s a dark, syrupy sauce with a salty and sweet flavor less pungent and fishy than fish sauce.

Soy sauce

 I use reduced sodium soy sauce so that I can control the amount of salt in the recipe, adding more if needed.

Fish sauce

I love the funky umami flavor fish sauce adds to any dish. It’s a great way to enhance the flavor of curries or even chicken wings. The flavor comes from a process of fermenting fish over a long period of time.

Brown sugar

Both light or dark brown sugar can be used in this recipe. The sugar is added to balance the flavors or the soy sauce, fish sauce and oyster sauce. It can be substituted with granulated sugar if needed.

Basil

Gra pao gai is traditionally made with Thai holy basil. I can sometimes find in Asian markets, but I use sweet basil (the bright-green type with cup-shaped leaves you usually find in grocery stores) in this recipe since it’s much more easily accessible. Thai holy basil has a peppery, slightly sour flavor while sweet basil is, well, sweeter.

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How to make this recipe

  1. Get your ingredients ready. Fried rice moves fast once you get going so it’s important to get your ingredients prepped ahead of time (a mise en place).
  2. Heat your wok or large pan. Heat a wok over medium high heat then add the oil.
  3. Cook your aromatics. Add the shallots and bell pepper, stirring constantly until the onion is tender and opaque.
  4. Cook the chicken. Add the chicken to the wok and cook, stirring constantly until just about cooked through.
  5. Fry the rice. Add the garlic and chilies, stirring until just fragrant, a few seconds. Add the rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until the rice is dried out a bit.
  6. Mix the sauce. In a small bowl whisk together the oyster sauce, soy sauce, fish sauce and brown sugar.
  7. Add to rice. Pour over the fried rice mixture stirring to combine. Remove from the heat and stir in the basil.
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Why use day-old rice?

Day old rice is optimal for cooking fried rice since it has dried out a bit. When making fried rice the goal is to fry it so it’s a bit crispy and absorbs the rice rather than steaming it to the point that it is mushy. While day-old rice isn’t required it definitely makes for the best texture.

If you don’t have leftover rice you can mimic the dried rice by spreading the cooked rice in an even layer on a baking sheet and refrigerating it for an hour or freezing it for about 15 minutes.

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Other fried rice recipes to try

If you enjoy this fried rice, I would recommend giving these recipes a try:

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FAQ – Frequently asked questions

Why is it important to use a wok?

Use a wok if you have one! It has more surface area so everything heats quickly and evenly. The sloped sides also contain most of the splatter that can occur when cooking at a high heat. If you don’t have a wok I recommend a large cast iron skillet for the best fried rice.

Can I use another kind of rice?

Yes! Any medium to long grain rice will do!

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SPICY BASIL FRIED RICE WITH CHICKEN

spicy basil fried rice on a white plate with chopsticks
Print Pin
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 3 medium shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, chopped into ½” pieces
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3 Thai Birdseye chilies, finely diced
  • 1 pound chicken thighs, thinly sliced
  • 2 1/2 cups cooked, day-old long-grain white rice
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon (packed) brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves

Instructions:

  • Heat a wok over medium high heat, add the oil and heat through. Add the shallots and bell pepper, stirring constantly until the onion is tender and opaque, about 2 minutes.
  • Add the chicken to the wok and cook, stirring constantly until just about cooked through, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and chilies, stirring until just fragrant, a few seconds. Add the rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until the rice is dried out a bit, about 3 minutes.
  • In a small bowl whisk together the oyster sauce, soy sauce, fish sauce and brown sugar. Pour over the fried rice mixture stirring to combine. Remove from the heat and stir in the basil.

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  1. I have used your recipe twice now and love it! The second time I doubled the sauce however and it worked out great! Thanks so much!

  2. Kylie, thank you for the clarification on the canola. It came out fantastic and a big hit. I made way too much day old rice so I will just have to whip up another batch of the dish today to use it up. Looking forward to trying some of your other recipes.
    All the best, David A.

  3. Hi Kylie, going to try your delicious looking dish tonight. One question, the other 1/4 of canola oil, what is it for? Not sure if I missed something. Thanks so much and let you know how it comes out. Cheers! David A.

    • David, good catch – that was an oversight on my part! Adjusted the recipe accordingly. Thank you and I hope you enjoy the recipe!